Monday, June 04, 2007

Iconography Unprotected.

Last year the unfunny comedian Stewart Lee explained why it was alright for him to satirise christianity but unacceptable for Danish cartoonists to satirise Islam.
I don’t think that the cartoonists have appreciated the massive taboo that you cross by having an image of Mohammed. There’s no historical precedent for that. So I think really in the West Christianity relinquished the right to be protected of its icons the day that they put Virgin Mary snow globes on sale in the Vatican, but in Islamic culture it’s a very different thing... The iconography of Christianity is up for grabs the iconography of - to use a corporate image - Islam’s always been a lot more conscientious about protecting its brand and so I think you need to engage with it as a satirist on its own terms.”
Like a lot of people I believed that the enthusiam for offending christians but not muslims was down to two reasons, firstly there are a small but dangerous minority of muslims who are willing to kill to silence criticism of their religion and secondly because satirising Islam doesn't earn anyone brownie points from polite society. However it turns out that even Lee's point about Islam being more protective of their 'brand' that christianity is nonsense in any case, this interesting article from the Wall Street Journal about the 'Shrine of Imam Reza' in Iran which apparantly attracts more muslims pilgrims than Mecca explains that:
The shrine has for centuries intermingled faith and money, collecting donations of cash, land, jewelry and works of art from the devout. Today, it is not only Iran's most sacred religious site but also, by some reckonings, the Islamic republic's biggest and richest business empire.

Companies in its corporate portfolio make everything from city buses to pizza strudels to growth hormones for caviar-producing sturgeon.
So Stewart Lee now has the opportunity to prove all of us who thought that he was simply a coward wrong, because by his reasoning Islam has 'relinquished its right to be protected'.

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